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DECEMBER 16 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Journal urges nuns to take Pill to reduce risk of cancer
BY STAFF REPORTER
NUNS should take contraceptives to protect themselves against cancers linked to childlessness, a study in a British medical journal has claimed. Writing in the Lancet Dr Kara Britt and Professor Roger Short said that oral contraceptives help to prevent the onset of cancer of the breast, ovaries and uterus in women who have never had children.
“Catholic nuns are committed to leading a celibate, spiritual life in a monastery or convent,” they said in the article entitled “The Plight of Nuns: Hazards of Nulliparity.”
“In 1713, Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini noted that nuns had an extremely high incidence of that ‘accursed pest’, breast cancer,” the researchers wrote, adding that research among more than 30,000 nuns in the US found a similar problem.
They said: “Today, the world’s 94,790 nuns still pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity.”
They point out in the article that although Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae prohibited couples from using contraception to regulate their fertility, it was silent on the use of the Pill for health benefits.
“Although Humanae Vitae never mentions nuns, they should be free to use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity since the document states that ‘the Church in no way regards as unlawful therapeutic means considered necessary to cure organic diseases, even though they also have a contraceptive effect,’” said the researchers from Australia’s Monash and Melbourne universities.
“If the Catholic Church could make the contraceptive pill freely available to all nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the ovary and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves,” they said in the article.
Dr Britt and Prof Short based their argument on research suggesting that women who have children at a young age and who also breastfeed them are less likely to develop the three cancers in later life.
The increased number of menstrual cycles in childless women is linked to an increased risk in developing cancer, they said.
Their arguments were received with scepticism, however, by David
Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, a Catholic institute.
“The claim that unmarried women without children, including nuns, ‘should go on the Pill’ is one that should be viewed with caution,” he said.
“It is the patient who takes the medicine and who may benefit but may also suffer from it.
“We should remember that the medical profession has a history of creating problems by unnecessary over-prescribing of drugs,” he added. “Nevertheless, if the Pill would be beneficial for a particular woman’s health, then it could be moral to use it.
“The contraceptive effect would be a side effect,” he continued. “If it was not being used as a means of contraception, then it would not be wrong for that reason.”
Sister Janet Fearns, Franciscan Missionary of the Divine Motherhood, who has served as a midwife in Zambia, said that the claims were also being taken with a “pinch of salt” by members of her community.
She said that nuns in her convent discussed the report over the weekend “with a great degree of cynicism”.
“It sounds a good story – nuns put on the contraceptive pill – but what happens within a doctor’s surgery is an entirely different matter,” she said.
“The contraceptive industry is going to say ‘of course it [contraception] is all right – the nuns are using it,’ but we think it is completely wrong,” she added.
This is not the first time that the Lancet has urged the Catholic Church to support the use of contraceptives.
In 2009 the journal published strong criticism of the Pope’s remarks reiterating the Church’s position on condom use on the plane to Africa.
The Pope said at the time that HIV/Aids was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem”.
But the Lancet intervened, arguing that the Pope had “publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue”.
“Whether the Pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear,” the journal stated, and it urged the Vatican to issue a retraction.
Priests surround the coffin of Bishop John Jukes at his funeral Mass at St George’s Cathedral Mazur
Southwark bishop is mourned
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A Funeral Mass for Bishop John Jukes was held on Tuesday December 6 in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark was the principal celebrant and concelebrants included Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
Bishop Jukes died on November 22 aged 88 in his 59th year of priesthood. He had served as a bishop for 31 years.
Bishop Howard Tripp gave the homily at the funeral Mass, saying:
“We see in the life of Bishop John faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.”
He said that in recent years the death of a Franciscan priest Fr Basil and his sister Josephine had “greatly affected Bishop John” and caused him “to meditate, not upon the mystery of death, but upon the mystery of Heaven. His reflections based in faith have been accompanied by hope. He has been looking forward to the life that is to come for us all and has said on a number of occasions that he had many questions to put to God the Father.
He concluded by saying: “I have spoken of the faith that believes in heaven and of the hope that waits for heaven. But the essence of the Beatific Vision for us will be to know fully and openly that we are loved by God who is Love... It is surely because the love of God is in the souls of those who are in Heaven that they enjoy the light, peace and happiness of the Beatific Vision, seeing God as St Paul says ‘face to face’. May our prayers and Masses aid Bishop John in his rapid passage through the waters of purgatory that, made new, he may stand before the throne of the God who loved him, and out of whose love he loved all of us.” The bishop said: “Farewell, John, but not for ever, dear brother.”
Pope greets British pro-lifers
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
POPE BENEDICT XVI has told British pro-life leaders in Rome that the first of all rights is the right to life.
After his Sunday Angelus address he said: “Dear friends, I am very happy to welcome today representatives of pro-life organisations from many European countries, on the occasion of the presentation of the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Prize for Life, awarded this year to the memory of Chiara Lubich.
“On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights we remember that the first of all rights is the right to life. I wish you every blessing in your work.”
The European delegates were in Rome for a prize-giving ceremony which took place in the Campidoglio. and was presented to Maria Voce, head of the Focolare Movement, by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Among those present as guests of honour were Lord Nicholas Windsor, director of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and trustee of the Right to Life Charitable Trust,
Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Alliance, Andrew Marsh of Christian Concern, Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life in Northern Ireland, Tim Jackson of Youth Defence Dublin and journalist David Kerr.
More than 15 European countries were represented with delegates from countries as far apart as Portugal and Ukraine.
Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Alliance said: “To receive such a wonderful endorsement from the Holy Father was a perfect conclusion to a very dynamic weekend.”
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Priest to spend Christmas in jail over war protest Equalities chief: legal challenge is nonsense on stilts
BY ED WEST
A CATHOLIC priest is to spend Christmas in jail after protesting against the war in Afghanistan.
Fr Martin Newell of the London Catholic Worker community was sentenced to 24 days imprisonment last week at Highbury Magistrates Court, meaning that he will be released in the first week of January.
Fr Newell was brought before the court after refusing to pay a £920 fine imposed on him after he cut his way into Northwood Headquarters in December 2008. The action was timed for the Feast of the Holy Innocents in protest at the war in Afghanistan.
Fr Martin Newell is a member of London Catholic Worker a pacifist organisation brought into being in 2000, with particular emphasis on resisting the “war on terror”.
From the dock Fr Newell said: “I work with refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Catholic Worker. I am opposed to the wars we have been waging on these countries. I have non-violently resisted these wars since they began. I’m refusing to pay this fine as a form of further non-cooperation with these wars.”
Northwood Headquarters is the command centre for British forces deployed overseas. The base has been the location of a number of nonviolent direct actions by the pacifist Catholic Worker community over the past decade.
Fr Newell, 41, along with 62-year-old Susan Clarkson, was arrested in 2008 for breaking into Northwood, the home of the command and control functions of the British armed forces and Nato. The two were arrested praying inside the base, while other members of the Catholic Worker communities held a vigil outside, reading the names of British and Afghan war dead. Both had worked with Iraqi and Afghan refugees. AMass was celebrated outside the base to commemorate the massacre of the children by King Herod, with the protestors stating that: “On December 28 the Catholic Church commemorates the murder of the children by King Herod in his search to destroy the baby Jesus who Herod believed threatened his empire.
“We repent of our complicity in this imperial warmaking of our Government and pray to be people committed to non-violent ways of solving conflict. We invite all whom we meet today to reflect on this power of non-violence.
“By coming here today we are trying to put into practice the words of Jesus whom we follow: ‘Love your enemies and do good for those who persecute you’,” they said.
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE HEAD of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has described a legal challenge to prayer at council meetings as “nonsense on stilts”.
Trevor Phillips, who leads the commission, said he “dropped his coffee” when he heard that the National Secular Society (NSS) was taking legal action against a council in Devon because it begins its meetings with a prayer.
The National Secular Society took Bideford town council to the High Court last week because former councillor Clive Bone claims he felt “disadvantaged and embarrassed” when Christian prayers were said at the start of meetings.
NSS lawyers argue that the tradition of saying prayers before meetings were a breach of Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect the individual’s right to freedom of conscience and protection against discrimination, respectively.
David Wolfe QC, who represented the NSS, argued that the prayers posed a problem because they were part of the council’s formal agenda. He told Mr Justice Ouseley that holding the prayers was “an unlawful practice”.
But James Dingeman’s QC, who previously acted as senior counsel to the 2003 Hutton inquiry, argued that councillors were not forced to participate in prayers.
He argued that the NSS was a campaigning organisation with a clear aim to ensure that the state did not “engage in religious activities”.
Mr Phillips also criticised the general misuse of the Human Rights Act.
He said: “Almost every morning I am confronted with examples of how the Human Rights Act is being used which any reasonable person would describe as thoroughly bonkers.
“Prison service vans that travel 90 miles to take a prisoner 90 yards; paedophiles freed to leer at children in the very parks where they have committed horrific crimes.”
Mr Phillips argued that human rights laws were not “the exclusive property of minorities”.
Judgment on the NSS’s case has been reserved but commentators have suggested that it could be a landmark ruling if the judge rules in favour of the NSS.
James Dingemans QC said that if the NSS succeeded, it would have far-reaching consequences. He said: “The Coronation Oath would need to be abolished, the council’s involvement in services of remembrance would be prevented and chaplains would not be able to serve in HM Armed Forces.” Editorial Comment: Page 13
NEWSBULLETIN David Cameron to consider cuts to faith school buses THE PRIME MINISTER has promised to look “very carefully” into transport cutbacks for children travelling to faith schools.
During Prime Minister’s Questions he made clear his intention to discuss with the Education SecretaryMichael Gove his concerns over a number of local authorities cutting back on transport services for children travelling to faith schools.
David Cameron reiterated his commitment to schools of a religious character and stated that he would “see what we can do to enhance not only choice, but the faithbased education that many of our constituents choose”.
Catholic MP Jim Dobbin inititiated the comments.
Pro-lifers criticise abortion study PRO-LIFE groups have criticised research claiming that abortion does not harm the mental health of women.
The research, commissioned by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and funded by the Department of Health, concluded: “The best current evidence suggests that it makes no difference to a woman’s mental health whether she chooses to have an abortion or to continue with the pregnancy.” The research assessed 44 studies from 1990 to 2011 that examined hundreds of thousands of women.
Researchers found that an unwanted pregnancy does involve a heightened risk of mental health problems, but concluded that the rates were no different whether they had an abortion or give birth.
Anthony Ozimic, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the authors had ignored key studies and said evidence showed that abortion involved an increased risk of depression and post-traumatic stress.
Cafod criticises Durban deal CAFOD analyst Dr Sarah Wykes has condemned the climate change agreement in Durban last week.
She said a “compromise deal” had seen the greater good subsumed by “ferocious politicking”, adding: “It is significant that Durban has agreed steps towards a legal treaty that will bind all countries on emissions reduction, but... the lack of clarity is an insult to the urgency of this crisis.”
Church leaders lobby over cuts CARDINAL Seán Brady joined his Irish Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian counterparts in travelling to London to express “grave concern” over the impact of welfare cuts in Northern Ireland.
Cardinal Brady, who talked to MPs and peers during the visit, said: “We need investment for peace, stability and growth, not measures that leave tens of thousands of our young people without hope.”
Upper House debates persecution THE HOUSE of Lords debated the persecution of Christians for nearly five hours last week. Catholic peer Lord Patten said that Christians in some parts of the Middle East may face “ethnic cleansing”.
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